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World Health Organisation launches coronavirus Health Alert service on WhatsApp

David Murphy

The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a Health Alert service on WhatsApp to answer questions from the public about coronavirus, and to give prompt, reliable and official information 24 hours a day, worldwide.

To contact the WHO Health Alert, save the number +41 79 893 1892 in your phone contacts and then text the word ‘Hi’ in a WhatsApp message to get started. The service responds to a series of prompts and will be updated daily with the latest information.

Users can also visit the WhatsApp coronavirus Information Hub at whatsapp.com/coronavirus, and click on the WHO link on the homepage to open up a chat with the WHO Health Alert if they have WhatsApp installed.

The WHO Health Alert will provide official information on topics such as how to protect yourself from infection; travel advice; and debunking coronavirus myths. The service is initially launching in English but will be available in all six United Nations languages – English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish – within the coming weeks.

“Digital technology gives us an unprecedented opportunity for vital health information to go viral and spread faster than the pandemic, helping us save lives and protect the vulnerable,” said WHO director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “We are proud to have partners like Facebook and WhatsApp, that are supporting us in reaching billions of people with important health information.

The WHO Health Alert is the latest official NGO or government helpline to become available on WhatsApp, joining the Singapore Government, The Israel Ministry of Health, the South Africa Department of Health, and KOMINFO Indonesia. WhatsApp said it is actively working to launch local services with other countries as well.

Earlier this week WhatsApp, in partnership with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and UNDP, launched the WhatsApp Coronavirus Information Hub, to provide simple, actionable guidance for health workers, educators, community leaders, non-profits, local governments and local businesses that rely on WhatsApp to communicate. The site also offers general tips and resources for users around the world to reduce the spread of rumours and connect with accurate health information.

WhatsApp also announced a $1m grant to the International Fact Checking Network to support fact-checking for the #CoronaVirusFacts Alliance, to report on rumours that may be circulating on various messaging services including WhatsApp or SMS.

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